by Gail Carson Levine
We would love to have a kitchen fairy. (Especially if she cleaned, too.) Mandy's cooking is so famous that, when Lucinda visits, she refers to Mandy as "the kitchen fairy" (25.44). That's a pretty apt nickname, since Mandy's cooking seems to be legen…wait-for-it…dary. Dame Olga, Hattie, and Olive all stuff their faces with Mandy's food, and even Ella says that she and her mother had tried to replicate Mandy's recipes without them turning out as deliciously as the original.
Well, duh. We're pretty sure there's some fairy dust involved.
Despite having some magical powers, Mandy seems content to hang out and cook rather than do more fairy-like things. She tells Ella that there are two reasons she and other fairies prefer to stay in the fairy-closet: "People know we can do magic, so they want us to solve their problems for them. When we don't, they get mad. The other reason is we're immortal. That gets them mad too" (4.31).
Yeah, remaining low-key definitely seems like the most sensible choice here.
And Mandy is nothing if not sensible. She reminds Ella to drink her Tonic to keep her in good health. She makes Ella eat nutritious food. She doesn't go overboard with the ordering-around, since she knows Ella hates it. Just like everyone in Ella's life (well, except for her dad), she seems to have a pretty good sense of humor.
Mandy digs being a fairy godmother to the Eleanor line (Ella's mother's side of the family). She misses Ella's mother as much as Ella does, and she does everything in her power to care for Ella. When she gives Ella the fairy-made book, for instance, she says: "When you look at it, you can remember me and take comfort" (5.64). The book helps set Ella's quest to find Lucinda in motion, so it was most definitely a helpful gift.
More than that, it's a gesture of love. Nurturing Ella is important to Mandy. Mandy writes in a letter to Ella at finishing school that the servants all send their love, "and I send mine, by the bushel, by the barrel, by the tun" (10.39). That's sweet, right? And it also tells us something about Ella, that she inspires so much devotion in her servants. (Although we're still a little confused about why a fairy would agree to be a servant. But anyway.)
And she even gives Lucinda a dramatic wake-up call, by challenging her to experience her own spells for once. Okay, so it doesn't have the intended effect of saving Ella from her own spell, but it does make Lucinda sympathetic enough to Ella's plight to help her get to the balls. So that's nice.
Speaking of that ball—Mandy definitely tries to protect Ella, but she also lets Ella make her own mistakes, with only the occasional push in the right direction. Like, she helps Ella go to the balls to see Char even though she thinks it's a majorly bad idea.
Lots of love, gentle direction, and the freedom to mess up knowing that someone who loves you is going to be there to help you get back on track: that sounds like a pretty good mother (or father) figure, if you ask us.